'Bat disease found in parks' and more Chattanooga region news

'Bat disease found in parks' and more Chattanooga region news

March 13th, 2013 by Staff Reports and Wire Service in Local Regional News

In a Dec. 16, 2011 photograph, a little brown bat is swabbed during a white nose syndrome study at New Mammoth Cave near LaFollette, Tenn. (AP Photo/Amy Smotherman Burgess, Knoxville News Sentinel)

In a Dec. 16, 2011 photograph, a little...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Bat disease found in parks

DADE COUNTY, Ga. - White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease estimated to have killed nearly 7 million bats across North America, has been discovered in two Dade County, Ga., caves, according to a news release.

One of the caves is in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, operated by the National Park Service, and the other is at Cloudland Canyon State Park. The disease was documented on the Tennessee side of the military park last year and reported in South Carolina one day ago, according to Millie Matteson with the Center for Biological Diversity in Richmond, Vt.

"White-nose syndrome's attack on North American bats is continuing unabated," Matteson, a bat specialist, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, despite the disease's relentless push across the country, the response of state and federal wildlife agencies has been astonishingly passive."

The disease, which affects bats during hibernation, has no cure. It has affected seven species, including two that are federally endangered, the Indiana bat and the gray bat.

Scientists fear that continued spread of the disease endangers and could lead to the extinction of many of North America's two dozen hibernating bat species.

Estimates of the value of bug-eating bats to U.S. farmers range from $3 billion to $53 billion per year, according to the center. Bats eat large quantities of moths, beetles, mosquitoes and other insects.

Dam blasted for water course

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Crews blew up another dam Tuesday to help create a man-made whitewater course on the Chattahoochee River.

Workers blasted a 100-foot section out of the City Mills Dam. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that some streets in the area would close for the explosion.

The whitewater course, expected to attract adventurers from around the South, is set to open May 25. The river forms the Alabama-Georgia state line and separates the downtown areas of Columbus and Phenix City, Ala.

Spelling bee planned Friday

ATLANTA - Georgia's top spellers in elementary and middle school will gather later this week for the State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Georgia Association of Educators.

Twenty students, ages 10 to 14, will be at Georgia State University for the 52nd annual bee. The winner will represent Georgia in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, set for May 28-30 in Washington, D.C.

Contestants represent districts including Rome City, Gilmer, Cobb, Gwinnett, Decatur City, Paulding, Rockdale, Henry, Bibb, Muscogee, Clarke, Dodge, Chatham, Tattnall, Colquitt and Early -- along with the Georgia Independent School Association.

The winner gets $1,000 and expenses for the national bee, while the runner-up will get $500.